An updated set of rules for the fledgling medical marijuana program in Illinois that amend unpopular regulations approved in February are expected Friday, including restoring gun-owner rights at the state level and setting state application fee requirements.
The rule-changes came after the department received hundreds of letters from the public with concerns.
According to the original rules for the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, medical marijuana patients would not have been allowed to have a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card - effectively making otherwise lawful gun ownership illegal in the state. Illinois requires all gun owners to register with the state.
According to an unnamed Chicago Sun-Times source, the updated rules this Friday will nix that requirement. The move is a smart one, despite the fact that it is still federally illegal to possess a firearm and marijuana together or even be a user of cannabis and own a gun. The FOID card application gives state police carte blanche to search the backgrounds of any applicant, so in effect the state medical marijuana registry would have been open to police inquiries. There was also language with similar requirements for concealed-carry permits, though no word on if that was removed as well.
Would-be Illinois medical marijuana growers are hoping for other changes and say proposed massive fees that favor big money over horticultural experience have stifled them. The Chicago Tribune this week profiled Robert Boyce, a landscape design architect and horticulturalist who has worked with the Chicago Botanic Garden, who says that it takes upwards of $3 million before someone can even get licensed, not to mention the additional costs of finding a warehouse and building it out. The state plans to license no more than 60 cultivation centers, and have made no secret of favoring people with a lot of money who can build-up quickly and potentially take a loss in the first year as the program builds steam.
Growers aren't alone with their complaints. The largest chunk of the letters were from patients, many of whom said that the $150 fee just to register with the state is too high. Patients also complained about invasive background checking that included fingerprinting legal medical cannabis patients like criminals.
Illinois medical marijuana laws technically started this year, though officials say patients won't actually see any cannabis until 2015. Medical marijuana patients with qualifying conditions will be allowed to purchase as much as 2.5 ounces of herb every two weeks.